Speculation over who may be bidding for up-for-sale Aston Martin has intensified in the British media since Ford announced last week that it is reviewing options for the brand with a ‘particular emphasis on a potential sale’.

A report in the British auto consumer/enthusiast magazine CAR says that two non-automotive luxury goods firms are locked in a battle to buy Aston Martin.

The report by respected journalist Georg Kacher says that ‘CAR [magazine] has learned’ that Swiss-based Richemont and the French holding company LVMH have emerged as ‘most likely’ to take on Aston despite having no previous experience in the car industry.

Richemont’s luxury goods interests embrace a wide variety of luxury brands including Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Piaget, Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Alfred Dunhill and Montblanc. Richemont also has a substantial stake in British American Tobacco (BAT).

French holding company LVMH describes itself as an international group with over fifty luxury brands including Moet & Chandon, Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Christian Dior Perfumes.

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Meanwhile the Sunday Times newspaper reported that Aston Martin’s chief executive Ulrich Bez is understood to be planning a management buyout and also that an offer for Aston is expected from private equity firm One Equity Partners, fronted by former Ford boss Jac Nasser.

The report cited a source at Ford as saying that there had already been several expressions of interest in Aston Martin and that it has been suggested Ford hopes to get as much as GBP1 billion for the sale.

Other reports have speculated that there could be interest in Aston Martin from investment groups or vehicle makers in Russia and China.

Ford said last week (31 August) that it had begun the process of exploring “strategic options for Aston Martin, with particular emphasis on a potential sale of all or a portion of the unit”. In the same statement the company noted progress being made by Jaguar and Land Rover, other PAG units that are under currently review.